September 29, 2015

Combed top for worsted spinning

 You know all those single locks I've been washing in those tiny packets?   Well, over the past few days I've been combing some of them to prep the fibre for spinning a true woollen.    I've layers them the combs by catching the cut ends on the tines.   It is really important to keep all the cut ends at one end of the combs.  This keeps all the scales aligned for the worsted yarn.

I've seen people layer the locks to as high as a 3rd to 1/2 the height of the tines.  I try to keep it at 1/4 the height or so, just because it gets pretty dry in our house during the winter.  This creates static and the fibres go all fluffy and wild.  Then I need to spritz them with water, or a water/oil or water/ fabric softener mixture to keep the static down so that I can continue combing.   Then I feel the need to let it dry before I spin.  With slightly less locks, I can usually keep everything under control manually and spinning can commence quickly.
 I keep track of where my cut ends are in the combing process.   First pass the cut ends go from behind the tines to in front of the tines.   The second pass  is the reverse and the third is back to the original with the cut ends behind the tines.  This means when I pull the sliver from the combs, I know which end that I should start spinning from.   With a true worsted I want to start spinning from the cut ends.
 Once the sliver is completely pulled off the combs, I roll the sliver up into a little nest.
 I take a little piece of card stock and put a little slit or punch a hole in the middle and pull the cut end of the sliver through the card stock.  This marks the end that I will start spinning with.   Otherwise, it is too easy to forget which end is which when the cat knocks them down.
I started washing single locks, one at a time the other day.   While the little screen packets are great for keeping lock structure and everything perfect, it is a very long process.     This was a little faster, though my drying rack looks rather daunting right now.

September 24, 2015

Preserving for winter

This week I've canned tomatoes.  I use the recommended hot pack method.  I only did up 1/2 bushel this year.   Canning is pretty easy, although time consuming.    A lot of time is spent blanching and peeling.

  I also did a single batch of peach jam. We don't eat a lot of jam so one batch will last us for the whole year.  I process the jars in a hot bath canner and the fruit starts to float.   I haven't found a way to stop that from happening yet. 

Last year I had been given a whole bunch of excess produce.  I tossed 5 cauliflowers and almost 10 lbs of carrots in the freezer.  Then carrots went on sale for super cheap, as they tend to do this time of year and I put another 20 lbs in the freezer.   I'd never bothered to freeze carrots before but found them incredibly convenient last winter after my hip replacement.   When they went on sale this week, I put 20 lbs in the freezer.  Not really a money saver but a huge time saver on those busy days.

 Beets were also on sale.  I didn't have many from my garden this year so I was happy to find them at the store for such a good price.  Nobody else in the family really like beets, so I froze a bunch in small packages and the rest I pickled, mostly in smaller jars.  This way, I can get my beet fix and not have to waste any.

I am almost out of freezer space!

September 21, 2015

Spinning the new fleece

There has been lots of fleece washing happening.   Everyday I try to get at least 7 or preferably 14 little packets of locks washed.   It doesn't always happen because while it is only a few minutes here and there, the soaking between washes and rinses takes up a lot of time.

In between I have been flick carding piles of washed locks and either spinning them directly or putting them through the drum carder to make batts.   I tried making a batt without flick carding, but it wasn't as nice as running the opened locks through the carder.  The flick carded locks, only take 2 passes through the drum carder to make really nice, fluffy batts.

After I take the batts off the carder, I roll them up and pinch a bit of fibre from the middle of the side of the roll and pull it into a long strip of sliver or roving.  I roll it into a little nest and it is ready to spin.   I've been using a point of contact long draw to make a fluffy yarn which is fairly quick to spin.

3 ply woollen spun using roving pulled from batts

 This yarn would make really nice mittens and hats.  It is a 3 ply woollen spun and is soft, light and lofty.   I don't really like spinning 3 ply yarns, simply because that 3rd ply seems to be to be when I should be plying, but it is worth the effort as it does make a nice yarn.

4 ply chained yarn

A 4 ply chained yarn has an interesting texture and is nice and round.   It knits up nicely.  For some reason, despite being a 4 ply, it doesn't seem to be quite as daunting as a 3 ply to me.  Perhaps that is because I can have a plying break after 2 bobbins of singles.
Chain plied or Navajo plied yarn

Chain ply or Navajo plied yarn.   This has to be my least favourite yarn.   It is a single, plied into a 3 ply, using a finger crochet type looping technique.   There is a tiny bump where each loop ends and the next begins.   I find it irksome.  I spun it first, to get it out of the way.   I didn't want to keep sampling and knowing it would be last on my list.  I thought it might spoil my enjoyment of spinning this lovely fleece.

Off to flick card more locks - 

September 14, 2015

Backus Mill Reenactment

On Sunday we went to Backus Mill to watch the war of 1812 reenactment.  The conservation area had opened some of their historical buildings.  The last time we were there, the mill was closed.  This time it was open and it is full of old mill equipment.

It doesn't seem to be set up as a functioning mill would have been, but there is a lot of old flour processing materials.   The water wheel and old dam still work as well.

One of the buildings is set up as a museum.  The displays inside are really well done and it was an impressive building to explore.  

I found this old knitting needle mounted on a display.   It is made of wood and in really good condition, although there is no age range listed, so it might not be horribly old.  It is pretty neat though.

One of the log cabins had been set up and used as a tavern on Saturday night.  It was really well done, with tables, lanterns and candles, as well as a lot of interesting old items for decor. 

The British army was out in full force and after a dasterdly murder of the Red Coat leader during the parlay, the American army was turned away and the town was saved.

The bright red coats of the British Army sure stand out in the battlefield.  I wonder who decided that red was a good colour to protect the soldiers?

It was a fun afternoon.

September 11, 2015

New Fleece update

I've been pulling a lot of locks from the new fleece.   I only have 6 pieces of screening to make washing envelopes from though, so I've been trying to do 2 lots per day.  It is still pretty slow going.  Once in a while I put a couple of handfuls of fleece in a lingerie bag to bulk wash. 
packets of fleece locks ready to wash
This is the screen packet of locks ready for washing.  The safety pins keep everything tucked in nicely.  The locks stay in place and don't move around.  The screen lets water and soap in, and the gritty dirt and lanolin out.
We've had a few nice days and the fleece dries quickly when I can get it out.  However there have been a lot more rainy days of late and then it has to dry inside.  Even with the rack, it takes a bit longer to dry inside.

So clean and quite soft!
Once the locks are dry, I've been flick carding them.   Sometimes I go outside and flick card a whole bin of them at once.  It is a nice way to spend some time outside in the nice weather this time of year.   But on the rainy days, I just flick card as I'm spinning; one lock opened and one lock spun.   I don't know if it takes more time this way, but the cat doesn't get nearly as involved, which is always a good thing when spinning.

The end result has been a lot of this.  These are fine singles which will be plied once I get the 4th bobbin spun.  I'm almost there!

September 05, 2015

Big Box of Fleece

I needed a fleece for my Level 6 in-depth study project.     I had a few requirements for this fleece.  It had to be medium or medium/fine, with a 4 inch staple, and hopefully fairly free of VM and not dripping in lanolin.   It is much easier to find a raw fleece in the spring, right after shearing.  The reality is, that I couldn't find anything much local.  Eventually, I decided to take a bit of a risk. On Monday,  I called up the Canadian Co-op Wool Growers Premium Fleece Division, Eastern location in Carlton Place   I ordered 1 white fleece, 30-32 microns, 4 in staple length.  Jim, in the warehouse was most helpful.  The fleece was packaged and shipped on Tuesday.  Yesterday, I received notice that I could pick up my parcel at the post office today.  I will say that was a bit of a wait and an exercise in patience.

This is what I dragged home this afternoon.   It wasn't overly heavy but it was a bit bulky.   It did took a bit like whatever was inside, was trying to get out!  I checked the packing invoice before I opened the box.   The fleece weighed in at 14lbs!

This is all I could see when I flipped over the box flaps.

I tipped out the fleece and tried to unroll it.  As you can see, I was unsuccessful.   It was a huge pile of fleece - you know, 14 lbs of it.  I'm pretty sure it was rolled up nicely to begin with, but with the compression and trying to get it out of the plastic bag, the fleece got a bit twisted around.

It is a lovely fleece.  That crimp is throughout the fleece.  The lock structure is great throughout the fleece.   There is a bit of VM in a few places, but not ridiculous amounts.     I pulled a lock to check crimp, strength and condition.  This is a bit dirty on the outside but the tips are stable, and really not much VM at all.

I pulled 3 locks from 3 separate places on the fleece.  I swished them about in hot soapy water a few times, then rinsed them, rolled them in a towel to absorb the excess water, and laid them outside to dry.

Wow!  Did they ever wash up nicely.   Super white, no staining, and still strong.   I can't wait to spin up a sample of this fibre.   Did I mention that it was $3 lb, plus shipping?  While I fully agree with supporting small flocks, sometimes a lovely, huge and quality fleece at a great price is a nice treat!   Would I order from them again? You bet I would, in a heartbeat.   Now I'm wondering if I should try the Western Division, to see about one of those lovely, clean, fine Western range fleeces.....

Guess what I'm doing for the next week or two?  Yup!  I'm washing fleece.